Thanks to an injured thumb on his left hand Mike Ronnie wasn’t able to swing the bat this weekend for the Red Deer Riggers.
But he was willing to help out any other way he could and when manager Curtis Bailey pencilled him in to start on the mound against the Fort Saskatchewan A’s in the final of the 32nd annual Riggers baseball tournament he couldn’t have been happier.
And all he did was scatter five hits in going the distance as the Riggers downed the A’s 7-3.
“I was bummed out I couldn’t hit, but I told Bails before the tournament I’d help out any way possible and he had confidence in me and I’m glad he did,” said Ronnie.
It was only the second time all season Ronnie took the mound, and his first appearance was only for three innings. On Sunday it looked as if he wouldn’t last past the fourth inning as he appeared to be hitting a wall.
“It was weird like that. They got two in the fourth and I was feeling tired, but something happened and I was able to refocus and I felt great in the seventh,” explained Ronnie, who threw 122 pitches.
It was a hot, humid day which definitely helped keep him loose.
“But he’ll be sore for a few days, but that’s OK,” said Bailey, who didn’t let Ronnie know he was starting until 30 minutes prior to the game.
“We talked about it yesterday and we didn’t want him thinking about it. We wanted him to find out, focus and get ready, which he did. He did a great job. But we expected him to do well. He has a good arm and his curve ball was outstanding. He threw it for strikes and kept them off balance and they got themselves out.”
And when they weren’t chopping the ball to the infield the Riggers defence was solid. Second baseman Denver Wik pulled off the play of the game when he went far to his right and made a full-out drive to rob James Fischer of a hit to open the seventh inning.
“The defence behind me was outstanding,” said Ronnie, who didn’t allow a hit after the fourth inning. “Plus they got me seven runs . . . that made it a lot easier.”
The win was big for the Riggers against the Sunburst Baseball League leaders.
“We’ve had some great games against them this season but we’ve also had some unfortunate losses,” said Ronnie. “We wanted to play them, eventhough we were short of pitching and it worked out.”
The Riggers were missing pitchers Brant Stickel, Dustin Northcott and James Dykstra.
“But it’s been that way all year. When someone is injured, or can’t make it, someone else steps up and does the job,” said Ronnie.
Bailey was ejected in the bottom of the sixth after arguing a called third strike and was replaced in the outfield by Mark Fay, who also made a fine running catch in the seventh inning.
“That was the first time I was ejected in my career,” said Bailey, who appeared to have walked on the play.
“But overall this was a great team effort,” he said. “Our guys are winning to battle and pick up the guy next to him and if keep that up we’ll be fine.”
The Riggers jumped on A’s starter Cory Kokotailo for two runs in the first as Matt Fay stole home on a back-end of a double steal and Shayne Court drove in Jason Chatwood. They added four more runs in the second on four hits and a key error that kept the inning alive with only one run in. Kokotailo was able to keep the Riggers under control until the sixth when Jaret Chatwood walked and Jason Chatwood singled for his third hit of the game. Jeremy Harasymchuk came on and Court drove in Jaret Chatwood with his second hit to go with a walk.
Meanwhile, the Parkland White Sox downed the Red Deer Stags 9-6 in the third-place game.
The Stags led 2-0 in the second before falling behind 3-2 They grabbed a 5-3 lead in the top of the fifth before the Sox scored four times in the bottom of the frame. Parkland put the game away with two runs in the sixth.
Jordan Ostrov started on the mound for the Stags with Davin Gulbransen coming in in relief. Shawn Connor had two hits for the Stags while Jamie Duncan and Kevin Curran had a single and two walks each.
“We know we can play with them, but once again we were missing three key guys,” said Gulbransen. “It seems the same every game we have a rotating roster. It’s work, or family . . . I’ve heard them all.”
What frustrated Gulbransen was that the Stags loss came a day after they played some of their best ball of the season. They beat Prince George 12-6 and lost 5-3 to the A’s.
“We played very good baseball, some of our best and it came down to one hit that was an inch over our shortstop’s glove against Fort Saskatchewan,” he said. “We put up six runs after falling behind by five against Prince George, then today we’re missing guys and it’s not the same.”
St. Albert edged Prince George 4-3 in eight innings to take fifth place.